Poetry / June 2016 (Issue 32)

Visiting the Island of the Goddess of Democracy

by Henry Wei Leung

(On November 25, December 11, and December 15, 2014, crackdowns were coordinated by police to clear and demolish the three protest camps of the Umbrella Revolution/Movement. The reaction to the first of these was a “mobile” Occupy, which would then continue nightly for years.)

What they meant by give the people
back their streets was let the vast
machines back in, this city grinding
gears inside the garden
in the animal in me.

I remain years behind, years
as in wandering, insoluble
nostos. I never meant
to this world; I am not meaning,
not promise, not time. I can’t
even promise myself:
what I own is not I.
Indifferent anthem
of the sun.

In the agon, after demolition:
       ghost town swept by cops
              where color is a contraband

How will it be
to be human again?
I’ve been to such silences
as a sudden flag
embracing its pole,
where I saw hollow bodies
multiply like bells. I know
a fire wishes me well.

The hides split open, yes.
I surrendered half a life’s anger, yes.
I surrendered solace, too.

In the agora, after demolition:
       a post-it, a democracy dog,
              and a congregation

Did holding hands in the rain
change the nature of rain?
Four kids kick a ball on a field
so vast that one falls asleep
in a goal made of netting.
Wilderness is something else here.
It’s one trombone against a world’s
traffic, lyre of a ribcage
rumbling and flayed.

I am a grotesque
mouthpiece now, but you
wouldn’t know it: they
keep scrubbing me clean.

In the orpheum, after demolition:
       a hooded speaker fights for volume
              against the old freedom ballad

sung nearby for small change.

The earth was an eggshell
full of black hole.
The sense of belonging

left a trauma on the body.
It was the body’s last trauma.

Here was a thing which changed my life:
I stood inside the calm eye of a storm
with wings enough to set the gates free.

The eggshell swallowed the storm.
Language blew out like a sleeve.

This city—kissed by a chimera
and even I spend my best years
in a golden future’s cage.
 Henry Wei Leung is the author of a chapbook, Paradise Hunger, which won the 2012 Swan Scythe Press Poetry Prize. He earned his degrees from Stanford and the Helen Zell Writers' Program, and has been awarded Kundiman, Soros, and Fulbright Fellowships. He finished a year of research on the literatures and protests in Hong Kong, and is continuing this research at the University of Hawaii at Manoa toward the completion of a PhD.

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